To pee (in public) or not to pee: The Los Angeles Times fudges the question

Recently, the Los Angeles Times had a news piece about a Christian group that objects to a place for public urination at a San Francisco park. In one of those only-in-San-Francisco (for now) instances, the city went French on everyone, setting up a pissoir (no joke) so that folks who couldn’t make it to a restroom could go with the flow right there, out in the open, in the park.

Being that this place was close to where passersby could see the action, one Christian group has objected to the point of filing a lawsuit. Personally, being that this is San Francisco, I think a lawsuit is/was not going anywhere, but they have the right to give it a try.

But the Times doesn’t seem to think they have standing. Here’s their story:

Apparently, peeing al fresco is not sitting well with everyone.
A religious group and several residents have sued the city and county of San Francisco over the new open-air urinal in Mission Dolores Park, calling it a “shameful” violation of privacy and decency.
The San Francisco Chinese Christian Union, along with several neighbors of the park, filed a 25-page civil suit in San Francisco County Superior Court on Thursday, alleging discrimination based on gender and disability, as well as violations of health and plumbing codes.
The urinal, which city officials call a “pissoir,” opened in January as the city’s latest move to combat public urination. It was part of an extensive park renovation that included new irrigation, playgrounds and restrooms.
The open-air urinal, next to a Muni streetcar stop, consists of a concrete pad with a drain and a circular fence that offers limited privacy. It is near the park’s southwest corner, affectionately dubbed “the gay beach.”

Wait. Is that barrier circular or a half circle? Moving on.

The San Francisco Chinese Christian Union, described in the suit as a religious nonprofit that includes 15 churches, and other plaintiffs said in their lawsuit that the “sewer hole” forced unwitting parkgoers to have to see strangers’ genitals while in a public park. It also discriminates against people who need to pee but don’t want to do so out in the open, the suit says. ...
The plaintiffs are represented by the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal group that advocated for the repeal of a state law requiring public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and play on sports teams of the gender with which they identify.

The reporter seems puzzled as to what this Chinese Christian Union is. They do have a Facebook page, albeit mostly in Chinese. There are such things as translators if the reporter would like to know more.

The reporter did get an interview with the legal group representing the Chinese. Once again, take a look at how this group is described in this news report.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal group that advocated for the repeal of a state law requiring public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and play on sports teams of the gender with which they identify.

Opposing the transgender narrative is already an unpardonable sin with many media. The institute also stands against mandatory union dues, Common Core tests and has former U.S. Attorney Gen. Ed Meese as chair of their advisory board, so they are not totally one-dimensional. It'd be nice to reflect that as well as include the names of (and interviews with) the neighbors who are party to the suit. 

Then here’s what follows a few paragraphs later:

The city attorney’s office noted in the statement that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the Pacific Justice Institute as an anti-LGBT hate group.
(The institute’s attorney Brad) Dacus dismissed that designation as being from a “very far-leftist extremist organization” and said the city was “desperately trying to divert attention from the real issues” in the lawsuit.

Well, at least Dacus got to respond to that one but why is the SPLC the automatic high priestly authority here? Quite a few folks have protested the way this group is given the power to decide who are and who are not the haters in American public life.  Even some on the cultural left don’t agree with how the SPLC measures hate.

Knowing that history, why does the Times cite the SPLC?

If you read the comments section, you’ll notice it’s not so much the urinal’s existence that’s the problem but it’s where the thing is located --  right next to a street car stop. So folks sitting in the public transport get to see a not-so-shielded male relieving himself just a few feet from the curb. It gives new meaning to the phrase "open air toilet," which is how New York magazine described the site. 

I’m including with this piece a photo from the institute that shows a man using the pissoir with a kid looking on. The Times photo doesn’t show anything that explicit but it does show a street car pulling up right next to the site. If I was a religious group, I might have better ways to spend my funds rather than suing the city, but folks have sued for crazier things, like scalding coffee at McDonald's

Still, the reporter could have done a better job of finding what these churches are. Certainly Dacus could have provided that info. The article was clearly a phoner that was whipped up in a few hours, plus it cribbed on a similar San Francisco Chronicle story, even repeating the Chronicle's linking of the Pacific Justice Institute as a hate group according to the SPLC.

As mentioned above, at least the Times allowed the institute to contest that sobriquet. The Chronicle columnist didn't even bother to do that. And the reporter could have asked why a religious group was doing the heavy lifting on this kind of case.

Other than questions about modesty and children, what does religion have to do with a pissoir? We're still waiting to find out.

Photo courtesy of the Pacific Justice Institute

Please respect our Commenting Policy